A World Bank Working Paper on the Somali judiciary unwisely assigns
percentages to population sizes of Somali clans, writes Liban Ahmad
Writing about Somali politics remains a difficult undertaking nearly thirty years after
the ouster of military dictatorship in 1991. For Somali writers and analysts the
difficulty lies in the temptation to give in to demands to portray one side as a victim or
villain. For foreign analysts a different impediment to an objective analysis gives rise
to a tendency either to downplay historical post-1991 injustices or place an
inaccurate emphasis on clans that owe their influence to the ability to mobilise clan
It is what non-Somali researchers write that carry much weight in the eyes of policy
makers from Somalia’s international partners.
In 2016 the World Bank published a working paper entitled Political Economy of
Justice in Somalia, co-authored by Joakim Gundel. Mr Gundel is a Danish
researcher, who wrote a seminal paper on Somali traditional leaders . In January
2019 he delivered a lecture – ‘Is Somalia on Track’? – at the Danish Institute for
International Studies. Authors of the Working Paper assign percentages to Somali
clans. Somalia has never conducted a census to determine population sizes of
The choice to dream up percentages shows that Gundel has not let himself benefit
from his long association with Somalia since 1999, first as a researcher and then an
influential consultant with a consultancy that published papers on such themes as
the Somali civil society. Percentages assigned to Somali minorities ( 6% ) and Dir
clan ( 7%) betray unfamiliarity with the power-sharing system known as 4.5, which
has been the basis for Somali governments formed since 2000.
The power-sharing system lumped unarmed Somali clans into political
representation ensuring their marginalisation at the hands of four major clans. Each
of the five clans (the other three clans are Hawiye, Darod and Digil-Mirifle) has 20%
of parliament, upper house, cabinet and ambassadorial appointment quotas, for
example. Marginalisation of Somali minorities becomes more conspicuous when one
looks at Federal Member States formed on the unspoken principle that clans with
militias who conquered or defended a territory enjoy benefits of federalism.
Somalis placed under rubric minorities have fewer life opportunities not because of
numerical disadvantage. Four Somali major clans have agreed to place unarmed
Somali clans in a second class citizenship category. Gundel et al pay no attention to
the plight of Somali minorities when they characterise dispossession and
displacement at the hands clan militias as a strategy used by two Somali clans “who
had exploited the civil war to move to south in order to settle in more fertile lands and
The largest number of internally displaced people in Somalia hails from fertile lands known as Dhoobey. Militias from armed clans have dispossessed people who, for many generations, have subsisted on small holder farming.
There is a risk that the Working Paper can normalise or deepen marginalisation of Somali minorities. The Working Paper in question carries the imprimatur of the World Bank.